US deploys 200 troops, missiles to bolster Saudi Arabia’s defenses

FILE – In this March 20, 2018, file photo, President Donald Trump shakes hands with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. The Trump administration is signing off on selling more than $1.3 billion in artillery to Saudi Arabia. The State Department says the administration told Congress on April 5 that it plans to approve the sale. The package includes about 180 Paladin howitzer systems. The artillery-firing vehicles launch 155mm shells. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

JEDDAH (Rahnuma): The US announced on Thursday the deployment of 200 troops as well as Patriot missiles to Saudi Arabia to help the country’s defense in the wake of last month’s attacks on oil installations blamed on Iran.

The Defense Department said the deployment would involve one battery of the surface-to-air missiles, along with four Sentinel radars used for air and missile defense systems.

In addition, two more Patriot batteries and one THAAD ballistic missile interception system are being readied in case a decision is made to also supply them to the Saudis, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said.

“This deployment will augment the Kingdom’s air and missile defense of critical military and civilian infrastructure,” he said.

It comes “in light of recent attacks on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” he said.

“It is important to note these steps are a demonstration of our commitment to regional partners, and the security and stability in the Middle East,” he added.

“Other countries have called out Iranian misadventures in the region, and we look for them to contribute assets in an international effort to reinforce Saudi Arabia’s defense.”

The US has pointed to Iran being behind the combination drone and cruise missile attacks on Sept. 14 which heavily damaged two Saudi oil installations, forcing the key oil supplier to slash output.

Meanwhile, a team made up of representatives from the US, Europe, Saudi Arabia and the UN will investigate the Sept. 14 attacks on Saudi oil facilities, US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker said. He told Al Arabiya TV that there are discussions with Europe about the possibility of forming a maritime alliance in the Gulf area.

Separately, the US imposed new sanctions on certain Chinese entities and people who it accused of knowingly transferring oil from Iran in violation of Washington’s curbs on Tehran.

Sanctions have also been slapped on five Chinese nationals and six entities, including two Cosco Shipping Corporation subsidiaries, the US Treasury Department announced.

“The more Iran lashes out the greater our pressure will and should be,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said. “That path forward begins now with two new actions.”

He said Washington was also ramping up efforts to educate countries on the risks of doing business with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps entities and that it will punish those who continue to engage with them in violation of sanctions.

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